Historical Highlights

The Annexation of Hawaii

June 15, 1898
The Annexation of Hawaii Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Serving three terms as Speaker of the House, Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine revised many rules governing procedure in the chamber.
By an overwhelming vote of 209 to 91, the House approved Senate Joint Resolution 55 providing for the annexation of Hawaii as an American territory. U.S. business interests and naval strategists had long coveted the island kingdom. An alliance of Democrats and anti-imperialist Republicans in the House—including Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine—opposed the annexation treaty negotiated by the William McKinley administration in 1897. Speaker Reed single-handedly blocked the resolution from being debated on the House Floor for nearly a month. Eventually, the strong sentiment in the House for annexation forced him to relent—even though he opposed the final measure. By considering Hawaiian annexation as a joint resolution (requiring a simple majority vote) rather than as a treaty (requiring two-thirds approval), backers of the measure considerably lowered the threshold for its approval on Capitol Hill. On April 23, 1900, Hawaii officially became a territory, with Robert Wilcox serving as its first delegate. In 1959, Hawaii officially became the 50th state.

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